HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1747-50
Q1. Mr. Gould

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the leaders of the TUC.

Q3. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the TUC.

Q5. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to meet the TUC and the CBI.

Q10. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the TUC and the CBI.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I shall be meeting representatives of the TUC later today to hear their views on the issues which will be discussed at the meeting of Heads of State and Governments on the international economic situation in Paris on 15th November. I had a similar meeting with the CBI on Monday and as the House knows, I shall be meeting both the TUC and the CBI when I take the chair at the next meeting of NEDC of 5th November.

Mr. Gould

Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the TUC leaders when he meets them that they could learn a good deal about the reasons for our current economic difficulties from a close study of the operations of Slater Walker? Does he agree that the Conservative Party might also learn from such a study, and that it might conclude it would be better employed in supporting the Government's efforts to promote genuine investment and productive industry than proclaiming the supposed virtues of the squalid, unproductive and irresponsible profit taking which is practised by its own high priests?

The Prime Minister

As far as I understand it, having studied what my hon. Friend has said, neither Mr. Slater nor the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) is a member of the TUC.

Mr. Ashley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the TUC is far more interested in the general level of public expenditure than in financial whizz kids, and that it is eagerly awaiting with bated breath the massive shopping list of public expenditure cuts that will be handed to my right hon. Friend shortly by the Leader of the Opposition? In view of the right hon. Lady's recent speeches, does my right hon. Friend agree that when she publishes her massive shopping list of public expenditure cuts she will make a significant contribution to a basic human right that she has enthusiastically propounded—namely, the right to be unequal?

The Prime Minister

There is not a great deal of ministerial responsibility or any other kind of responsibility so far as these pledges are concerned. I have made inquiries—I do not know whether it is due to postal delays or some other cause—but I have not seen the list to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Hordern

Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's talks with the TUC, will he confirm that it remains the Government's intention to reduce public expenditure by £1,200 million next year?

The Prime Minister

The figure announced by my right hon. Friend in the Budget for the 1976–77 expenditure year remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I think that the hon. Gentleman will confirm that the figure announced in the Budget was slightly smaller, but that is the Government's policy.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House, notwithstandng the curious ailment that afflicts some Conservative Members who want public expenditure cuts, except in their own constituencies, where they want an increase, what representations have been made to him by the CBI, the TUC and the Leader of the Opposition for cuts in public expenditure generally and the National Health Service in particular?

The Prime Minister

I suppose that question arises out of my hon. Friend's reference to ailments. I have had, as have other Ministers appearing at this Dispatch Box, demands from Conservative Members for vastly increased expenditure. I have had no specific propositions for reductions in expenditure from the Opposition, apart from some ideological preoccupation with nationalisation, where there is no addition to expenditure in real resources, and the proposals of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition in respect of food and housing subsidies, which would merely increase the cost-of-living index and make more difficult the acceptance by the country of the counter-inflation policy on wages, about which the right hon. Lady could not even vote.

Mrs. Thatcher

When the Prime Minister sees the TUC today, or at any other time, will he point out that, according to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government will be borrowing even more next year than this year and that a large part of the cost of that borrowing will have to be borne out of the pay packets of its members?

The Prime Minister

If it is so necessary to answer that question, my reply is "Yes, Sir", but every member of the TUC heard my right hon. Friend explain these matters with great courage at the Labour Party Conference, and this was fully understood there. We did not have a similar degree of courage from the right hon. Lady when she addressed her own conference.